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Publication numberUS6781359 B2
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 10/251,007
Publication dateAug 24, 2004
Filing dateSep 20, 2002
Priority dateSep 20, 2002
Fee statusPaid
Also published asDE60336917D1, EP1546741A1, EP1546741B1, EP2264471A2, US7265531, US20040056647, US20040196024, WO2004027436A1
Publication number10251007, 251007, US 6781359 B2, US 6781359B2, US-B2-6781359, US6781359 B2, US6781359B2
InventorsJason Stauth, Richard Dickinson, John Sauber, Ray Engel, Sandra Pinelle
Original AssigneeAllegro Microsystems, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Integrated current sensor
US 6781359 B2
Abstract
An integrated current sensor includes a magnetic field transducer such as a Hall effect sensor, a magnetic core, and an electrical conductor. The conductor includes features for receiving portions of the Hall effect sensor and the core and the elements are dimensioned such that little or no relative movement among the elements is possible.
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Claims(18)
What is claimed is:
1. A current sensor comprising:
a conductor having a first notch and a second notch substantially aligned with the first notch;
a magnetic field transducer having at least a portion disposed in the first notch; and
a magnetic core having a central region and a pair of substantially parallel legs extending from said central region, wherein at least a portion of said central region is disposed in the second notch and wherein at least a portion of each leg covers at least a portion of a respective surface of the magnetic field transducer.
2. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein said magnetic field transducer comprises a selected one of a Hall effect element and a magnetoresistance element.
3. The current sensor of claim 2, wherein said magnetic field transducer comprises a selected one of a giant magnetoresistance (GMR) element and an anisotropic magnetoresistance (AMR) element.
4. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the width of said portion of said magnetic field transducer disposed in the first notch is substantially equal to the width of said first notch so that said magnetic field transducer is in a substantially fixed position with respect to said conductor.
5. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the width of said central region of said magnetic core disposed in the second notch is substantially equal to the width of said second notch so that said magnetic core is in a substantially fixed position with respect to said conductor.
6. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein each of said legs of said magnetic core covers substantially an entire surface of the magnetic field transducer.
7. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein said first and second notches are located in a central region of said conductor and said conductor comprises a mounting mechanism at end regions thereof.
8. The current sensor of claim 7, wherein said mounting mechanism comprises a through-hole adapted to receive board-mounting hardware.
9. The current sensor of claim 7, wherein said mounting mechanism comprises a bent lead adapted to be inserted into a through-hole of a printed circuit board.
10. The current sensor of claim 7, wherein said mounting mechanism comprises a flat lead for soldering to a pad of a printed circuit board.
11. The current sensor of claim 7, wherein said mounting mechanism comprises a wire mounting mechanism.
12. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the conductor is elongated along a first axis and wherein the magnetic field transducer has at least one electrical lead extending along a second axis substantially orthogonal to the first axis.
13. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the magnetic field transducer further comprises at least one amplifier.
14. The current sensor of claim 13, wherein said at least one amplifier has a gain adapted to be trimmed.
15. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the magnetic core is comprised of a material selected from the group consisting of ferrite, steel, iron compound, and permalloy.
16. The current sensor of claim 1, further comprising a molded body encapsulating at least a portion of said magnetic field transducer, said conductor and said magnetic core.
17. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the pair of substantially parallel legs are spaced by a distance substantially equal to a thickness of said magnetic field transducer.
18. The current sensor of claim 1, wherein the pair of substantially parallel legs are spaced by a distance greater than a thickness of said magnetic field transducer.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to electrical current sensors, and more particularly to a miniaturized current sensor having an integrated conductor.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As is known in the art, one type of conventional electrical current sensor uses a Hall effect magnetic field transducer in proximity to a current-carrying conductor. The Hall effect device generates an output signal having a magnitude proportional to the magnetic field induced by the current through the conductor. Typical current sensors of this type include a gapped toroid magnetic flux concentrator, with the Hall effect device positioned in the toroid gap. The Hall effect device and toroid are assembled in a housing which is mountable on a printed circuit board. In use, a separate current-carrying conductor, such as a wire, is passed through the center of the toroid and is soldered to the printed circuit board, such as by soldering exposed ends of the wire to plated through-holes. Such devices tend to be undesirably large, both in terms of height and circuit board area.

Various parameters characterize the performance of Hall effect devices in current sensing applications, including sensitivity, which is the change in the output signal of the Hall effect device in response to a one ampere change through the conductor, and linearity, which is the degree to which the output signal varies in direct proportion to the current through the conductor. Important considerations in the use of Hall effect devices include the effect of stray magnetic fields and external magnetic noise on the device performance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, an integrated current sensor is provided with a conductor having a first notch substantially aligned with a second notch, a magnetic field transducer having at least a portion positioned in the first notch, and a magnetic core. The magnetic core is substantially C-shaped, with a central region and a pair of substantially parallel legs extending from the central region. At least a portion of the central region of the magnetic core is positioned in the second notch such that each leg covers at least a portion of a respective surface of the magnetic field transducer. In the illustrated embodiments, the magnetic field transducer is a Hall effect sensor containing a Hall effect element.

With this arrangement, the Hall effect sensor, the conductor, and the magnetic core are essentially locked in place relative to each other by the first and second notches and also by dimensional characteristics of the elements. As a result of the precise mechanical positioning of the elements, the sensitivity of the current sensor is highly repeatable and thus, tightly controlled. The magnetic core provides a sensitivity that is higher than otherwise possible and also provides a magnetic field across the Hall effect element that is substantially uniform.

In one embodiment, each of the legs of the magnetic core covers substantially an entire surface of the Hall effect sensor. This arrangement, in combination with the C-shape of the magnetic core, serves to reduce susceptibility to stray magnetic fields and external magnetic noise, to increase sensitivity and to improve the uniformity of the magnetic field across the Hall effect element.

At least a portion of the Hall effect sensor, conductor, and magnetic core are encapsulated with an electrically insulating material. The conductor is provided with a mechanism for mounting the current sensor to a printed circuit board, such as through-holes adapted to receive hardware, leads or tabs for inserting into printed circuit board through-holes or for surface mount soldering to pads. The resulting integrated current sensor provides a significantly smaller, single component alternative to the conventional gapped toroid design.

To achieve further integration, the Hall effect sensor contains circuitry for processing the output signal of the Hall effect element, including one or more signal amplifiers. Preferably, the circuitry also includes additional elements, such as digital-to-analog converters and counters, which can be controlled in order to trim performance parameters, such as sensitivity and quiescent offset voltage.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing features of the invention, as well as the invention itself may be more fully understood from the following detailed description of the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded isometric view of a current sensor in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 1A is an isometric view of the assembled current sensor of FIG. 1;

FIG. 1B is a plan view of a sensor die of the Hall effect sensor of FIG. 1A;

FIG. 2 is an exploded isometric view of an alternative current sensor in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2A is an isometric view of the assembled current sensor of FIG. 2;

FIG. 3 is a graph of the magnetic field at a Hall effect element contained in the current sensor of FIGS. 1 and 2 as measured in the x-axis of the Hall effect element plane;

FIG. 3A is a graph of the magnetic field at the Hall effect element contained in the current sensor of FIGS. 1 and 2 as measured in the y-axis of the Hall effect element plane;

FIG. 4 is a graph showing the magnetic field sensed by the Hall effect sensor of FIG. 2 with and without the magnetic core;

FIG. 5 is a graph showing the accuracy of the current sensor of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the current sensor of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an exemplary digital fuse circuit that can be provided in the same form as the current sensor of FIG. 1, including the core and conductor of FIG. 1 but including an alternative Hall effect sensor as shown;

FIG. 8 is a plan view showing an alternate arrangement of the current sensor in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 8A is a plan view showing another alternate arrangement of the current sensor in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a miniaturized, integrated current sensor 10 includes a magnetic field transducer, here in the form of Hall effect sensor 12, a current-carrying conductor 16 and a magnetic core 24. The conductor 16 includes features for receiving portions of the Hall effect sensor 12 and the magnetic core 24 such that the elements are maintained in a fixed position relative to each other. In the illustrated embodiment, the conductor 16 has a first notch 18 a and a second notch 18 b substantially aligned with the first notch. In assembly, at least a portion of the Hall effect sensor 12 is disposed in the first notch 18 a. The magnetic core 24 is substantially C-shaped and has a central region 24 a and a pair of substantially parallel legs 24 b, 24 c extending from the central region. In assembly, at least a portion of the central region 24 a is disposed in the second notch 18 b of the conductor such that each leg 24 b, 24 c covers at least a portion of a respective surface of the Hall effect sensor 12.

The Hall effect sensor 12 is provided in the form of an integrated circuit containing a sensor die 14 encapsulated with an electrically insulating material. The integrated Hall effect sensor 12 can be provided in different package types, such as the “K” single in line (SIP) package having a thickness on the order of 1.6 mm. The effective air gap is equal to the thickness of the package, with the sensor die resting approximately in the center of the air gap.

The Hall effect sensor has leads 15 adapted for mounting to a printed circuit board (not shown). Leads 15, further described in association with FIG. 6, include a power, or Vcc, connection, a ground connection, and an output connection adapted to carry an output signal proportional to the current through the conductor 16. The output signal may be a current or a voltage.

The sensor die 14 includes a Hall effect element 14 a (FIGS. 1B and 6) and Hall circuitry 14 b (FIGS. 1B and 6) for processing the output signal of the Hall effect element. In the illustrative embodiment, the Hall circuitry 14 b includes an amplifier, a filter, an output driver, and an offset cancellation circuit. Also provided in the Hall circuitry 14 b is a trim control circuit for adjusting the sensitivity and quiescent operating voltage, as is shown and described below in association with FIG. 6. Such a Hall effect sensor 12 is available from Allegro Microsystems, Inc. of Worcester, Mass. under part number A3525. It will be appreciated by those ordinary skill in the art that other circuitry may be provided in the integrated Hall effect sensor 12. Use of the Hall effect sensor 12 enhances the integration of the current sensor 10 by incorporating circuit components which otherwise would be provided separately, such as by discrete components mounted to a printed circuit board.

Although a Hall effect sensor 12 is used in the current sensor 10 of FIG. 1, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that other types of magnetic field transducers, such as magnetic field transducers having an anisotropic magnetoresistance (AMR) element or a giant magnetoresistance (GMR) element, may alternatively be used.

The conductor 16 can be comprised of various conductive materials, such as copper, and is adapted for mounting to a printed circuit board through which the measured current is provided to the conductor 16. To this end, bent leads or tabs 16 a, 16 b (16 b not shown) suitable for soldering into circuit board vias are provided at end portions of the conductor. Mechanisms other than bent tabs 16 a, 16 b may be used to mount the current sensor 10 to a circuit board, such as screw terminals and associated hardware or the flat leads or tabs 52 a, 52 b of FIGS. 2 and 2A. In alternate embodiments, the same or other mounting mechanisms can be used to allow the current sensor 10 to be mounted to other than a circuit board. For example, the current sensor 10 can have wire couplings (not shown) that allow the current sensor 10 to be coupled in series with a wire.

Preferably, the conductor 16 (excluding the bent tabs 16 a, 16 b) is substantially planar as shown, without features extending in the z-axis 21 which would increase the height of the current sensor 10 off of the printed circuit board. In use, the plane of the conductor 16 is positioned close to the printed circuit board plane, thereby providing a low profile current sensor.

The first notch 18 a of the conductor 16 has a width w2 selected to receive at least a portion of the Hall effect sensor 12, which has a width w1. Preferably, the width w1 and the width w2 are sufficiently similar so that, in assembly, the possible movement of the Hall effect sensor 12 relative to the conductor 16 in the x-axis 19 is negligible. More specifically, nominal width w1 is slightly smaller than nominal width w2, such as by approximately 0.28 mm, so that, with worst case tolerances, the largest width w1 is 0.4 mm smaller than the smallest width w2. In the illustrated embodiment, nominal width w1 is 5.18 mm and nominal width w2 is 5.46 mm. Widths w1 and w2 can thus be characterized as being substantially equal.

The second notch 18 b of the conductor has a width w3 selected to receive at least a portion of the magnetic core 24. Preferably, the width w3 and the width w4 of the central region 24 a of the magnetic core are sufficiently similar, so that, in assembly, the possible movement of the magnetic core 24 relative to the conductor 16 in the x-axis 19 is negligible. More specifically, nominal width w4 is slightly smaller than nominal width w3, such as by approximately 0.2 mm, so that, with worst case tolerances, the smallest width w4 is 0.34 mm smaller than the largest width w3 and the largest width w4 is 0.08 mm smaller than the smallest width w3. In the illustrated embodiment, nominal width w3 is 5.46 mm and nominal width w4 is 5.25 mm. Widths w3 and w4 can thus be characterized as being substantially equal.

The spacing h3 between magnetic core legs 24 b, 24 c, the thickness or height h2 of the conductor 16 and the thickness or height h1 of the Hall effect sensor 12 are all substantially similar so that possible movement of the components relative to each other in the z-axis 21 is restricted. More specifically, nominal conductor height h2 and sensor height h1 are slightly smaller than nominal height h3, such as by approximately 0.1 mm, so that, with worst case tolerances, the smallest height h1 and height h2 are 0.22 mm. smaller than the largest height h3 and the largest height h1 and height h2 are 0.01 mm smaller than the smallest height h3. In the illustrated embodiment, the nominal height h1 is 1.55 mm, the nominal height h2 is 1.50 mm, and the nominal height h3 is 1.64 mm.

In other embodiments, however, the spacing h3 is selected in accordance with other factors. For example, in one alternate embodiment, the spacing h3 is substantially larger than the height h1 of the Hall effect sensor 12, in order to increase the reluctance and, therefore, to increase the current through the carrying conductor 16 that would saturate the current sensor 10. Thus, this alternate embodiment has a greater current carrying capacity.

The magnetic core 24 tailors the magnetic field across the sensor die 14 and may be referred to alternatively as a magnetic field concentrator. The magnetic core 24 may be comprised of various materials including, but not limited to ferrite, steel, iron compounds, and permalloy. The material of the magnetic core 24 is selected based on factors such as maximum measured current and the desired amount of magnetic shielding provided by the C-shaped magnetic core 24. Other factors include stability of the relative permeability over temperature and hysteresis (magnetic remanence). For example, a low hysteresis ensures greater accuracy for small currents through the conductor 16. The material and size of the magnetic core 24 are also selected in accordance with the desired full scale current through the conductor 16, wherein a magnetic core material with a higher saturation flux density (Bsat) allows the use of a smaller core for a given current flowing through the conductor 16. As will become apparent from consideration of FIG. 4 below, use of the magnetic core 24 significantly reduces the susceptibility of the current sensor 10 to stray magnetic fields.

The magnetic core 24 has a depth d1, selected so that each of the legs 24 b, 24 c substantially covers an entire respective surface of the sensor die 14. With this arrangement, a substantially uniform magnetic field is provided across the Hall effect element 14 a (FIG. 1B) provided on the sensor die 14, thereby increasing device sensitivity and reducing susceptibility to stray magnetic fields.

Here, the conductor notch 18 a is formed by tabs 16 d, 16 e extending radially outward from the conductor. Notch 18 b is formed by a narrowed region 16 c of the conductor in combination with tabs 16 f, 16 g extending from the conductor. The width w5 of the narrowed region 16 c between the first and the second notches 18 a, 18 b is selected based on the maximum current carrying capability of the electrical conductor 16. Here, the width w5 is on the order 1.7 mm and the current carrying capability of the conductor 16 is on the order of 100 Amperes. Although the notches 18 a, 18 b could be formed by radial tabs 16 d, 16 e, and 16 f, 16 g respectively, without providing the narrowed conductor region 16 c, the use of the narrowed region 16 c minimizes the overall dimension of the current sensor 10 along the y-axis 20. The narrowed region also provides the current through the conductor 16 in closer proximity to the Hall effect sensor 12. In an alternate embodiment, the notches 18 a, 18 b are formed without the tabs 16 d-16 g, and are provided only by the narrowed region 16 c.

Referring also to FIG. 1A, in which like elements are labeled with like reference designations, the assembled exemplary current sensor 10 is shown. As is apparent, a portion of the Hall effect sensor 12 is positioned in like-dimensioned conductor notch 18 a (FIG. 1) and the central region 24 a of the magnetic core 24 is positioned in like-dimensioned conductor notch 18 b (FIG. 1). The leads 15 are bent to facilitate mounting of the current sensor 10 to a printed circuit board. Advantageously, the current sensor 10 is a low profile assembly, with the height of the current sensor off of the printed circuit board determined by the thickness of the molded body 28.

The molded body 28 comprising an electrically insulating material is disposed over the magnetic core 24, a portion of the conductor 16, and the Hall effect sensor 12, as shown. The molded body 28 further reduces movement of the elements relative to each other by additionally preventing movement in the direction of the x-axis 19, y-axis 20, and z-axis 21.

With this arrangement, the magnetic core 24, the conductor 16, and the Hall effect sensor 12 are fixed in place relative to each other. The result of this mechanical “interlock” is highly repeatable and tightly controlled current sensor performance.

Referring now to FIG. 1B, in which like elements of FIGS. 1 and 1A are labeled with like reference designations, the sensor die 14 is shown to include the Hall effect element 14 a having a width w7 along the x-axis 19, a width w8 along the y-axis 20, and center labeled 14 c. The sensor die 14 also includes circuitry 14 b, here shown as a representative block coupled to the Hall effect element 14 a. The Hall effect element 14 a and the circuitry 14 b are shown in greater detail in FIG. 6.

The Hall effect element 14 a and the circuitry 14 b are formed on a single die, which is encapsulated and provided in the form of a single integrated circuit Hall effect sensor 12. In an alternate embodiment, the Hall effect element 14 a and the associated circuitry 14 b can be formed as separate integrated circuits coupled with wire bonds or the like. In Hall circuitry 14 b is electrically coupled to the leads 15 (FIGS. 1, 1A) of the Hall effect sensor 12.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 2A, in which like elements of FIGS. 1 and 1A are labeled with like reference designations, an alternative exemplary current sensor 50 includes the Hall effect sensor 12, a conductor 52, and a magnetic core 54. The conductor 52, like conductor 16 of FIGS. 1 and 1A, has a first notch 60 a and a second notch 60 b substantially aligned with the first notch. The first notch 60 a has a width w2, which is sufficiently similar to the width w1 of the Hall effect sensor 12 so as to restrict the relative movement of the elements in the x-axis 19 and the second notch 60 b has width w3, which is sufficiently similar to the width w4 of the magnetic core 54 so as to restrict the relative movement of the elements in the x-axis.

The magnetic core 54 has a central region 54 a of width w4 and a pair of substantially parallel legs 54 b, 54 c extending from the central region and separated by a height h3. The depth d2 of the magnetic core 54 is selected so that each of the legs 54 b, 54 c covers substantially an entire respective surface of the sensor die 14.

The height h1 of the Hall effect sensor 12, the height h2 of the conductor 52, and the separation h3 of the parallel legs 54 b, 54 c are sufficiently similar, so that, in assembly, the legs 54 b, 54 c prevent relative movement of the elements along the z-axis 21. The widths w1, w2, w3, w4, and heights h1, h2, and h3 are substantially identical to like dimensions in the current sensor 10 of FIG. 1.

In assembly, as shown in FIG. 2A, a portion of the Hall effect sensor 12 is disposed in the first notch 60 a and a portion of the magnetic core 54 is disposed in the second notch 60 b, as shown. With this arrangement, the magnetic core 54, the conductor 52, and the Hall effect sensor 12 are prevented from moving relative to each other along the x-axis 19 and z-axis 21. Molded body 28 is provided over the magnetic core 54, portions of the conductor 52, and the Hall effect sensor 12 to further reduce movement of the elements relative to each other along the x-axis 19, y-axis 20, and z-axis 21.

The current sensor 50 differs from current sensor 10 of FIGS. 1 and 1A generally in features of the conductor 52 and the magnetic core 54. In particular, the conductor 52 has flat leads or tabs 52 a, 52 b which serve as the mounting mechanism for mounting the conductor 52 to a circuit board (not shown). In use, a hole or depression is provided in the printed circuit board. The molded body 28 is positioned in the hole or depression such that the tabs 52 a and 52 b rest flat on the surface of the printed circuit board over plated pads to which they are soldered by conventional surface mount techniques.

The electrical conductor 52 has a narrowed region 52 c separating the first and the second notches 60 a, 60 b. Here, notch 52 a is formed by tabs 52 e, 52 f extending radially outward from the conductor and notch 52 b is formed by a combination of radial tabs 52 g, 52 h and narrowed region 52 c. The narrowed region 52 c has a width w6, which is greater than the width w5 of the narrowed region 16 c (FIGS. 1 and 1A). Thus, notch 60 b is not as deep as notch 18 b (FIGS. 1 and 1A). Accordingly, the electrical resistance of the narrowed region 52 c is less than the resistance of the narrowed region 16 c of FIG. 1. Thus, less power is dissipated per ampere flowing through the narrowed regions 52 c. Since the width w6 of the narrowed region 60 c is associated with the maximum current carrying capability of the sensor 50, the conductor 52 is adapted to carry more current than the conductor 16 of FIG. 1. In the illustrative embodiment, the width w6 is 3 mm and the maximum current carrying capacity of the conductor 52 is 200 Amperes. In an alternate embodiment, the notches 60 a, 60 b are formed without the tabs 52 d-52 g, and are provided only by the narrowed region 52 c.

Magnetic core 54 differs from magnetic core 24 of FIGS. 1 and 1A in that the central region 54 a is curved relative to the parallel legs 54 b, 54 c. The shape of the magnetic core 54, here a C-shape is selected in accordance with a variety of factors, including, but not limited to the material of the magnetic core 54. The factors used to select the material of the core 54 are the same as those described above for the magnetic core 24 of FIG. 1. In one illustrative embodiment, the core 54 is comprised of a silicon steel alloy which has a higher saturation flux density than ferrite. Also, the depth d2 is greater than the depth d1 of the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1, adapted to the width w6 that is greater than the width w5 in the embodiment of FIG. 1.

Referring to FIG. 3, a graph 80 illustrates the magnetic flux density along the x-axis 19 of the sensor die 14 when 100A is passed through the conductor 52 of the exemplary current sensor 50 of FIGS. 2 and 2A. The center 14 c of the Hall effect element 14 a within the sensor die 14 (FIG. 1B) corresponds to zero millimeters on the abscissa 84.

The magnetic flux curve 86 can be characterized as having a central portion 88 that is essentially flat and inclined end portions 90 a, 90 b. Consideration of curve 86 reveals that the magnetic flux is substantially constant in the central portion 88, for a span on the order of 4 mm, centered about the element center 14 c of the Hall effect element 14 a. Portions of the Hall effect element 14 a located more than 2 mm from the Hall effect element center 14 c along the x-axis 19 experience reduced magnetic flux density. The illustrative Hall effect element 14 a has an x-axis width w7 on the order of 0.2 mm, centered on the sensor die 14 typically having dimensions of approximately 1.6 mm by 3 mm, and therefore the entire Hall effect element 14 a lies in the central portion 88. The width of central portion 88 is substantially greater than the width w7 (FIG. 1B) of the Hall effect element 14 a, and the Hall effect element 14 a is sufficiently centered within the central portion 88 to ensure that the Hall effect element 14 a is within the greatest amount of magnetic field.

It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the dimensions of the magnetic core 54 relative to the Hall effect element 14 a significantly affect the uniformity of the flux density across the Hall effect element 14 a in the x-axis 19. In particular, the wider the magnetic core 54 (i.e., the greater the width w4), relative to the width w7 of the Hall effect element 14 a, the longer the central portion 88 of the curve 86, whereas, the narrower the magnetic core, the shorter the central portion 88.

Curve 86 presumes that the magnetic core 54 and Hall effect element 14 a are centered relative to one another in the x-axis 19, as is ensured by their fixed placement relative to aligned conductor notches 60 a, 60 b. Movement of the Hall effect element 14 a relative to the magnetic core 54 along the x-axis 19 would result in the curve 86 moving along the abscissa 84 and thus, result in areas of the Hall effect element 14 a even closer to its center 14 c than 2 mm, experiencing significantly reduced flux density. This effect highlights the desirability of restricting relative movement of the Hall effect sensor 12 and the magnetic core 54. Further, since there is a tolerance associated with the location of the sensor die 14 and associated Hall effect element 14 a (FIG. 1B) within the Hall effect sensor 12, fixing the position of the Hall effect sensor 12 relative to the magnetic core 54 is critical.

Referring also to FIG. 3A, a graph 100 illustrates the magnetic flux density along the y-axis 20 of the sensor die 14 when 100A is passed through the conductor of the exemplary current sensor 50 of FIGS. 2 and 2A. The center 14 c of the Hall effect element 14 a corresponds to zero millimeters on the abscissa 84.

The magnetic flux curve 106 can be characterized as having a central portion 108 that is essentially flat and inclined end portions 110 a, 110 b. Consideration of curve 106 reveals that the magnetic flux is substantially constant in the central portion 108, for a span on the order of 2.5 mm, centered about the center 14 c of the Hall effect element 14 a. Portions of the Hall effect element 14 a located more than 1.25 mm from the Hall effect element center 14 c along the y-axis 20 experience reduced magnetic flux density. The illustrative Hall effect element 14 a has a y-axis width w8 on the order of 0.2 mm, centered on the sensor die 14 typically having dimensions of approximately 1.6 mm by 3 mm, and therefore the entire Hall effect element 14 a lies in the central portion 108. The width of central portion 108 is substantially greater than the width w8 (FIG. 1B) of the Hall effect element 14 a, and the Hall effect element 14 a is sufficiently centered within the central portion 108 to ensure that the Hall effect element 14 a is within the greatest amount of magnetic field.

It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the dimensions of the magnetic core 54 relative to the Hall effect element 14 a significantly affect the uniformity of the flux density across the Hall effect element 14 a in the y-axis 20. In particular, the deeper the magnetic core 54 (i.e., the greater the depths d2, FIG. 2), relative to the width w8 of the Hall effect element 14 a, the longer the central portion 108 of the curve 106, whereas, the shallower the magnetic core, the shorter the central portion 108.

Curve 106 presumes that the magnetic core 54 and Hall effect element 14 a are centered relative to one another in the y-axis 20, as is ensured by their fixed placement relative to aligned conductor notches 60 a, 60 b. Movement of the Hall effect element 14 a relative to the magnetic core 54 along the y-axis 20 would result in the curve 106 moving along the abscissa 104 and thus, result in areas of the Hall effect element 14 a, even closer to its center 14 c than 1.25 mm, experiencing significantly reduced flux density. This effect again highlights the desirability of restricting relative movement of the Hall effect sensor 12 and the magnetic core 54.

Referring to FIG. 4, a graph 120 illustrates the significance of the magnetic core 24 (FIGS. 1, 1A) in reducing the effect of stray, or external, magnetic fields. The abscissa 124 represents an external magnetic field applied along the z-axis 21 (FIG. 1) to the current sensor 10 of FIG. 1A (as contrasted to the magnetic field generated by a current passing through the conductor 16) and the ordinate 122 represents the magnetic field sensed by the current sensor 10. Curve 128 corresponds to a current sensor of the type shown in FIGS. 1 and 1A, but without the C-shaped magnetic core 24 and curve 130 corresponds to the current sensor 10 having the magnetic core 24. Curve 128 shows that the magnetic field sensed by the Hall effect sensor 12 is substantially the same as the externally applied field; whereas, curve 130 shows that, with the magnetic core 24, the magnetic field sensed by the current sensor 10 is significantly less than the externally applied field.

Referring to FIG. 5, a graph 140 illustrates the accuracy performance of the current sensor 10 of FIGS. 1 and 1A. The accuracy represents the maximum deviation of the actual sensor output from its ideal value. The current through the conductor 16 is shown on the abscissa 144 and the voltage of the current sensor output signal is shown on the ordinate 142.

The ideal relationship between current through the conductor and output voltage is illustrated by curve 150, here a straight line. Curves 146 a and 146 b represent the accuracy bounds of sensing current flow over a range of temperatures. More particularly, curves 146 a and 146 b represent the accuracy bounds of sensing current flow throughout the temperature range of −40° C. to +85° C. Curves 148 a and 148 b represent the accuracy bounds of sensing current flow at a fixed temperature of 25° C.

Referring to FIG. 6, a schematic representation of the exemplary Hall effect current sensor 10 of FIGS. 1, 1A, and 1B includes the conductor 16 represented by a line having circuit board mounting mechanisms 16 a, 16 b, and the magnetic core 24 here represented by a toroid 162. The illustrative Hall effect sensor 12 includes the sensor die 14 and leads 15, here labeled 15 a, 15 b, and 15 c. Lead 15 a provides a power connection to the Hall effect current sensor 12, lead 15 b provides a connection to the current sensor output signal, and lead 15 c provides a reference, or ground connection to the current sensor.

The Hall effect element 14 a senses a magnetic field 164 induced by a current flowing in the conductor 16, producing a voltage in proportion to the magnetic field 164. The Hall effect element 14 a is coupled to a dynamic offset cancellation circuit 170, which provides a DC offset adjustment for DC voltage errors associated with the Hall effect element 14 a. When the current through the conductor 16 is zero, the output of the dynamic offset cancellation circuit 170 is adjusted to be zero.

The dynamic offset cancellation circuit 170 is coupled to an amplifier 172 that amplifies the offset adjusted Hall output signal. The amplifier 172 is coupled to a filter 174 that can be a low pass filter, a high pass filter, a band pass filter, and/or a notch filter. The filter is selected in accordance with a variety of factors including, but not limited to, desired response time, the frequency spectrum of the noise associated with the Hall effect element 14 a, the dynamic offset cancellation circuit 170, and the amplifier 172. In one particular embodiment, the filter 174 is a low pass filter. The filter 174 is coupled to an output driver 176 that provides an enhanced power output for transmission to other electronics (not shown).

A trim control circuit 184 is coupled to lead 15 a through which power is provided during operation. Lead 15 a also permits various current sensor parameters to be trimmed, typically during manufacture. To this end, the trim control circuit 184 includes one or more counters enabled by an appropriate signal applied to the lead 15 a.

The trim control circuit 184 is coupled to a quiescent output voltage (Qvo) circuit 182. The quiescent output voltage is the voltage at output lead 15 b when the current through conductor 16 is zero. Nominally, for a unipolar supply voltage, Qvo is equal to Vcc/2. Qvo can be trimmed by applying a suitable trim signal through the lead 15 a to a first trim control circuit counter within the trim control circuit 184 which, in turn, controls a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) within the Qvo circuit 182.

The trim control circuit 184 is further coupled to a sensitivity adjustment circuit 178. The sensitivity adjustment circuit 178 permits adjustment of the gain of the amplifier 172 in order to adjust the sensitivity of the current sensor 10. The sensitivity can be trimmed by applying a suitable trim signal through the lead 15 a to a second trim control circuit counter within the trim control circuit 184 which, in turn, controls a DAC within the sensitivity adjustment circuit 178.

The trim control circuit 184 is further coupled to a sensitivity temperature compensation circuit 180. The sensitivity temperature compensation circuit 180 permits adjustment of the gain of the amplifier 172 in order to compensate for gain variations due to temperature. The sensitivity temperature compensation can be trimmed by applying a suitable trim signal through the lead 15 a to a third trim control circuit counter within the trim control circuit 184 which, in turn, controls a DAC within the sensitivity temperature compensation circuit 180.

It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the circuitry shown in FIG. 6 is illustrative only of exemplary circuitry that may be associated with and integrated into a Hall effect current sensor, like the Hall effect current sensor 10 of FIG. 1. In another embodiment, additional circuitry may be provided for converting the current sensor into a “digital fuse” which provides a high or low output signal depending on whether the magnetic field 164 induced by the current through the conductor 16 is greater or less than a predetermined threshold level. The additional circuitry for this alternative embodiment can include a comparator and/or a latch, and/or a relay. An exemplary embodiment of a digital fuse is shown in FIG. 7.

Further, since the conductor connections 16 a, 16 b are electrically isolated from the current sensor leads 15 a, 15 b, and 15 c, the current sensor 10 can be used in applications requiring electrical isolation without the use of opto-isolators or other isolating techniques, such as transformers.

Referring now to FIG. 7, in which like elements of FIG. 6 are shown having like reference designations, an exemplary digital fuse circuit 200 includes conductor 16, core 162 and a Hall effect sensor 12′ including a sensor die 14′. The die 14′ includes a Schmitt trigger 202 coupled to the filter 174. The Schmitt trigger provides an output signal in a first digital state when the magnetic field 164 is below a first threshold value and a second digital state when the magnetic field 164 is above a second threshold value. The first digital state corresponds to a low current through the conductor 16. The second digital state corresponds to a higher current through the conductor 16. The Schmitt trigger output signal is provided to a control circuit 204 that provides a control signal to a transistor 206. The control signal causes transistor 206 to conduct when the Schmitt trigger output signal is in one of the two digital states and causes transistor 206 to be off when the Schmitt trigger output signal is in the other one of the two digital states. A resistor 208 in combination with a current limit circuit 210 limits the current through the transistor 206.

The output lead 15 b (FIG. 1) can be coupled to a load 212, not part of the digital fuse circuit 200, and the load 212 therefore receives electrical current from a power supply Vcc in response to the on or off condition of the transistor 206. For example, in one embodiment, the load 212 receives full current when the magnetic field 164 is below the first threshold, corresponding to a low current through the conductor 16, and the load 212 receives zero current when the magnetic field 164 is above the second threshold value, corresponding to a higher current through the conductor. It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that a flip-flop or latch may be included in order to allow the state of the transistor 206 to be latched to either the on or the off condition.

Referring now to FIG. 8, an integrated current sensor 250 includes a magnetic field transducer, here in the form of Hall effect sensor 252, a current-carrying conductor 254, and a magnetic core 256. The magnetic core 256 is the type of magnetic core 24 shown in FIG. 1 and the Hall effect sensor 252 is the type of sensor 12 shown in FIG. 1. In this embodiment, the current-carrying conductor 254 has only one notch 258. The notch 258 is comparable to the notch 18 b of FIG. 1, providing the same capabilities and advantages. Thus, the notch 258 is adapted to receive a portion of the like-dimensioned magnetic core 256, aligning the magnetic core in essentially the same way as described in conjunction with FIG. 1.

A molded body (not shown), similar to the molded body 28 of FIG. 1A, can be provided to further reduce movement of the elements relative to each other. The conductor 254 is substantially planar, without features extending in the z-axis. In use, the conductor is positioned close to the surface of the printed circuit board, thereby avoiding additional height off of the printer circuit board.

While the current sensor 250 is shown having the one notch 258 in association with the magnetic core 256, in another embodiment, an alternate current sensor has only one notch, comparable to the notch 18 a of FIG. 1, adapted to receive the like-dimensioned Hall effect sensor (e.g., Hall effect sensor 152).

Referring now to FIG. 8A, in which like elements of FIG. 8 are shown having like reference designations, an integrated current sensor 300 includes a magnetic field transducer, here in the form of the Hall effect sensor 252, a current-carrying conductor 302, and the magnetic core 256. In this embodiment, the current-carrying conductor 302 has no notches comparable to the notches 18 a, 18 b of FIG. 1 for receiving a portion of the sensor 254 and/or core 256. Rather, the Hall effect sensor 252 is juxtaposed with respect to an edge of the conductor 302 as shown and the magnetic core is positioned to straddle the opposite edge of the conductor 302 so that each of the legs of the core covers a substantial portion of a respective surface of the Hall effect sensor. Here again, the conductor 302 is substantially planar.

A molded body (not shown), similar to the molded body 28 of FIG. 1A, can be provided to further reduce movement of the elements relative to each other. Thus, this particular embodiment can rely upon a molded body to keep the elements in a substantially fixed relative position.

Having described preferred embodiments of the invention, it will now become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments incorporating their concepts may be used. It is felt therefore that these embodiments should not be limited to disclosed embodiments, but rather should be limited only by the spirit and scope of the appended claims. All references cited herein are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification324/117.00H, 324/126
International ClassificationG01R15/20
Cooperative ClassificationG01R15/202
European ClassificationG01R15/20B
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